Clinton nuclear generating station, Illinois  Daniel Schwen - Own work (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Lead test assemblies using Global Nuclear Fuel's ARMOR-coated zirconium cladding and IronClad Accident Tolerant Fuel solutions have been installed the Clinton nuclear power station in the USA.

Clinton, a 1098MW single-unit boiling water reactor located in Illinois, is operated by Exelon Generation.  

The lead test assemblies (LTAs) containing three varieties of GNF’s IronClad solution were the first fuelled ferritic steel-based cladding assemblies to be installed in a commercial reactor, GNF said.

Unfuelled test rods were loaded into the Hatch nuclear plant in Georgia in 2018.

“We continue to work with our customers and partners to develop fuel solutions to lead the industry into the future,” said Jay Wileman, president and CEO of GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy. “With support from the industry and the Department of Energy, we are advancing this fuel technology at an aggressive pace.”

The fuel assemblies were developed as part of the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) accident tolerant fuel programme.

The DOE programme, which started in 2012, aims to develop new nuclear fuel cladding and materials that can better tolerate a loss of core cooling while maintaining or improving fuel performance and economics during normal operations.

GNF says its IronClad solutions are designed to provide "substantial oxidation resistance and superior material behaviour" compared to previous solutions. The low oxidation rates of the material at higher temperatures further improves safety limit margins.

Meanwhile, the ARMOR coated zirconium cladding provides enhanced protection of fuel rods against debris fretting, which improves safety limit margins and abrasion resistance.

GNF manufactures its nuclear fuel assemblies at its facility in Wilmington, North Carolina.

In addition to GNF, the DOE is working with Framatome and Westinghouse to commercialise their accident tolerant fuels for deployment in commercial reactors by 2025.

Photo: Clinton nuclear-generating station, Illinois (Wikipedia/Daniel Schwen – Own work used under CC BY-SA 4.0)